Lehi • Nothing had changed for Jimmer Fredette.
He was adored by children and teenage Brigham Young University fans. Adults connected to him via business deals and family ties tightly guarded his surroundings; parents watched him with admiration and awe. Two larger-than-life posters of Fredette hung from the rafters inside the XSI Factory. There were more posters on the second floor, plastered with Fredette’s trademark grin and messy hair, promoting a trendy but affordable clothing line.
Jimmer lived. As loved and honored as ever. Like he was still at BYU, and a rookie NBA season in Sacramento — filled with frustration, disappointment and drama — had never happened.
For three days and six sessions this week, Jimmer Jam was everything Fredette hoped the allure of NBA life would be. His mother played DJ. His brother flew in from California. His wife oversaw merchandise. More than 350 kids fine-tuned their basketball skills as Lee Taft, Fredette’s uncle and longtime strength and conditioning coach, barked orders from a pumped-up PA.
The muscled-up, broad-shouldered Fredette appeared at peace. Surrounded by those he knew and trusted. Valued by Cougar devotees. A world removed from the Kings, the Maloofs, coach Keith Smart and the make-or-break season Fredette’s second NBA campaign will soon become.
“Everybody’s involved, helping out and doing things. It’s very exciting for us,” said Fredette, midway through a Wednesday afternoon session. “We have a big love for sports in our family, so there’s nothing better for us than to be here and doing that.”
Fredette was confident at XSI. And happy. He’d just purchased a home in Denver. While the 2012 Summer Olympics were broadcast on local televisions, commercials bearing Fredette’s face ran in between events. A biography detailing the ex-BYU star’s storybook rise will be released in November. A promotional deal with Spalding has cemented Fredette’s brand.
Take away 61 games with the Kings during 2011-12 — a season that saw Sacramento finish 22-44; former coach Paul Westphal fired; and Fredette fall to the bottom of Smart’s depth chart — and the 6-foot-2 long-range bomber still appeared untouchable.
Except Fredette knows that’s not the case anymore. BYU fans will always love him, the state of Utah will always call him its own, and he’ll forever be one of the best basketball players to ever emerge from Provo.
But Fredette wants more. It was evident throughout his rookie season, when he talked about controlling what he can control inside Sacramento’s locker room, then appeared hesitant and overwhelmed on the hardwood. It was clear Wednesday, when Fredette stressed he’s improved on the court every year since he started playing the game, and believes the trend will continue in 2012-13.
“Same thing in the NBA,” Fredette said. “I work hard in the offseason to be a better player and to be in good condition. But, also, to go through a year and know what you can and can’t do always helps you out. I’m excited to get out there and prove a lot of critics wrong. I don’t listen to it too much, but I know they’re out there.”
But what about Aaron Brooks, Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Thornton, who currently hover above Fredette at point and shooting guard on Sacramento’s depth chart? What about Smart, who pushed and provoked but seldom clicked with Fredette last year?
A Kings mini-camp last week and four days recently spent working one-on-one with Smart in Denver say the duo want to make it work. But the 2013-14 contract extension Smart received last week underscores the fact that Fredette’s carrying most of the weight.
“Our relationship has definitely evolved,” Fredette said. “He came in a tough situation and just had to feel it out. It was tough for him. He didn’t know what rotation he should play, so sometimes you played a lot, sometimes you didn’t play at all. … We’ve been growing our relationship this whole summer.”
If the initial months of the 2012-13 season mirror last year, Fredette’s time in Sacramento could abruptly end. Why blow a lottery pick on a guard who rarely plays? Why waste either side’s time?
No matter what happens, Fredette’s setting himself up for the next 10 years. This season is a clean slate. No lockout. No abbreviated training camp. No abrupt coaching change.
He knows he can play in the NBA and believes he belongs in the league. He’s going to control what he can control. But he’s also going to play with a sharper, more dangerous edge. Just like he did at BYU.
“We haven’t necessarily seen [what I can do]. It’s going to just be my scoring mentality — I think that’s what it’s going to be like,” Fredette said. “It’s going to be me going out there and being aggressive and shooting the basketball and being fearless. That’s something that I’ve always done, and that’s going to be my niche in this league.”
He added: “I’ll show [the Kings] that I can be a very good player in this league and help their team.”
Jimmer Fredette file
Position • Guard
Year • 2
Vitals • 6-foot-2, 195 pounds
Stats • 7.6 pts, 1.8 reb, 1.2 ast, 38.6 FG, 36.1 3-pt
Draft • No. 10 overall in 2011 by Milwaukee (traded to Sacramento)
College • BYU
More coverage online
O Check The Tribune’s Jazz Notes blog at sltrib.com/Blogs/jazznotes for a transcript of Brian T. Smith’s interview with Kings guard Jimmer Fredette.